Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Green Lantern #46

Hal Jordan is still a jerk. He jumps out of the conflict with the Black Lantern JLA and heads out with Indigo-1 to get a Star Sapphire to join up with the rainbow army. I suppose he didn't have a choice, but you know Hal was down to head into space with some pretty ladies. After all, it doesn't take him long to start making comments about how good Carol Ferris looks in her Star Sapphire uniform. Indigo, Hal, Carol, and Sinestro end up ditching the Sapphire homeworld after the Black Lanterns free the Predator, the creature powering the pink battery powering the planet. The mysterious lovers who inspired the Sapphires are resurrected as Black Lanterns too; they are revealed as Khufu and Chay-ara, the original bodies of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. I bet this is going to get confusing, isn't it? This means there are at least 2 versions of Hawkman currently in the Black Lantern corps, with more possible.

Sinestro takes on Mongul and while Mongul does put a real hurting on Sinestro, pinkie pulls out the win by establishing control over Mongul's many rings. I really liked that Sinestro didn't kill Mongul, since he didn't want him raised as a Black Lantern. He calmly tells Mongul that after the Blackest Night, he'll kill Mongul. It is interesting seeing the rainbow coalition forming up, especially since Sinestro demands that he's in charge. I kind of like this development of Sinestro and Abin Sur's backstory too, giving Abin a sister does add to the mythos nicely.

Doug Mahnke's art is fantastic as always. The Black Lanterns look horrific. And Hal was right; Carol does look good in purple. Mahnke's art doesn't clarify what those weird staffs are that the Indigo Lanterns are holding, but they do seem to be on-model.

Good

Justice Society of America #31

If I was a comic character joining a super-hero team, I'd really like to be in a Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges written comic. These two authors have totally instilled their logical approach into most of the characters on this team. This issue opens with a throwdown between Magog and Wildcat, but the conflict is wisely explained away as a fact of life when a bunch of warriors are stewing and have nowhere to deflect their anger. Dr. Fate is able to defuse the situation by pointing out that he, Dr. Fate, and Sentinel are trying to save Mr. Terrific in the next room over. This opens things up for some logical discussion.

What it boils down to is that Magog wants the team to function more like a special ops team, with training, psych evaluatations, and the like. He isn't down with using the JSA as a boarding house for any new hero using an old name. It's a great, reasonable argument that the arrogant King Chimera quickly backs up. The problem is, Chimera is an ass and the whole team doesn't like him, so Magog responds to his support with a wonderful line "Don't undermine my argument by agreeing with me." THIS Magog is much more likeable and is a cool leader; I like this guy a lot more than the one starring in the solo title. The plot churns along too, with Icicle stepping forward as a middle-man for the mysterious bad guy who hired the army of villains 2 issues ago. After Eclipso leaves, it looks like the new villain team consists of Icicle, Underhand, Homonculus, Blue Moon, Dr. Polaris, Atomic Skull, and Wild Huntsman. Those guys aren't household names, but they do make a pretty cool looking villain team.

The big news is on the closing page where the doctors have to give up and declare Mr. Terrific is dead. I don't believe it, but it does make for a dramatic closer.

Jesus Merino is still doing a wonderful job. He does 2 nice transitions that would fit in a TV show or film. In one scene, the panel swivels around the table showing different characters chiming in on a discussion. At the close of that scene, Power Girl states "here's what we learned" and the scene cuts to various villains spilling their guts.

Excellent

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Web #1

This was a fun little issue. The Web isn't going to revolutionize the way we think about super-hero comics, but it is a solid book. The Web is a likeable hero with a decent supporting cast forming around him. Based on the one-shot and this first issue, it seems that John Raymond's family will be ongoing players in the book. I love the approach of having them be a mix of money-grubbers and kinder folks. We've seen the rich playboy heroes like John before, but I'm not sure we've seen their extended families. Angela Robinson sets up a nice love interest right away too, it seems John's former flame had rebounded to his now-dead brother. So I'm sure as they work through the investigation of David Raymond's life, the two will be drawn back together.

There isn't as much media grand-standing in this issue as there was in the one-shot, but that's ok, since the Web is more driven to seek revenge for his brother. I do hope those more vain tendencies do crop up again, that's what made the one-shot so interesting.

Roger Robinson is a fantastic artist. His dark pencils actually make that weird yellow and green suit look awesome. The action scenes are laid out very nicely and while the villains are generic now, I'm sure when given the chance any "name" villains will look great. Good stuff.

The Hangman backup was enjoyable too. John Rozum wisely continues using flashbacks to Civil War times to show the roots of the character, but quickly flashes to the present where Hangman is trying to scare some scumbags straight. I like that the Hangman isn't necessarily a killer, since he spends this whole issue just warning people to turn away from their evil ways.

As a whole, this Red Circle book is a strong package.

Good

Spider-Woman #1

The problem here is that I'm sick of Skrulls. Totally tired of them. They were in every book for so long that I heard rumors that Marvel was trying to stay away from them for a bit because the whole comic line had become so over-saturated with wrinkly-chinned shapeshifters. So what is the new Spider-Woman comic about? She's an agent of SWORD. And her one job is to chase down Skrulls. So I'm probably not going to pick this up again.

Bendis seems to have some affection for Jessica Drew. She spends most of the identity rolling thoughts around in her head, repeating things, and talking to Abigail Brand. There is a bit of combat at the end to liven things up, but for the most part this is a talker. I like the idea that Jessica Drew is messed up by the things that have happened to her, but I'm not sure that watching her kill Skrulls on the D-L is how to make her character more interesting. There isn't any type of set up for a supporting cast in this premiere issue, unless Abigail Brand will be coming around regularly, but I don't see that happening. So this relaunch probably isn't for me, although it may stay street level enough to play to Bendis' strengths. I fear it will play more to his weaknesses, like the plotting in Secret War.

I chose the Ross variant cover because what draws me to Spider-Woman is her 70s camp look and her bright appearance, she's a neat looking hero. But this dark take doesn't seem like it will carry the mood I'm looking for from the character.

Alex Maleev draws beautiful pictures that fit the story pretty well, but there are a lot of cutaways and artistic shots too. This is not "classic" storytelling by any means, but it is moody and pretty to look at.

Average

Monday, September 28, 2009

Superman: Secret Origin #1

I was prepared to dismiss this book out-of-hand as unnecessary. We've had so many Superman origins over the years that I didn't care to see another, and frankly, I still think John Byrne did the best origin story with Man of Steel years ago. But as I've learned reading Blackest Night and GL, Geoff Johns has been saving the good stuff.

This story doesn't really have anything new, that we didn't know before, but Johns is so into the little details that it can't help but be fun to see how Ma Kent got the idea for the super-suit, or see how Clark Kent first got his glasses. What I enjoyed the most was seeing how unhappy Clark was with these early developments, he really did want to be a normal boy and play football and kiss girls. The ongoing relationship with Lana Lang is an interesting one. I've never been a big fan, but there is something to be said seeing the blossoming relationship of Superman's first love. I'm digging most of the story here, but I'm still not a believer that putting Lex Luthor in Smallville helps either him or Superman. There is no need to tie them together as kids (although perhaps Johns will prove me wrong on that too). I'm also pleased to see Doomsday showing up as a calamaty that struck Krypton back in the day.

Gary Frank is one of my favorite artists because of the way he draws faces. His kids have a bit of a weird face thing going on here, they look too grown up. He does better with Lana than Clark, and his Lex Luthor is mighty odd looking (probably by design though). I can't wait for more super-characters to show up. So I'm sold, I'll definitely keep an eye out for the eventual trade.

Good

Invincible #66

There's still a part of me that doesn't trust Omni-Man. Kirkman gives just enough doubt in Allen's interaction with Omni-Man that he could be foreshadowing an eventual turn, although really, that would make no sense.

Omni-Man and Allen the Alien continue in their mission to stop the expansion of the Viltrumite empire. Omni explains how the Viltrumites were wiped out and reduced to their current numbers and officially links up with the coalition. There are a few nice character bits as Omni-Man becomes assimilated into Allen's more normal life. I like the idea of a space-team forming up to fight the Viltrumites, and the newly resurrected Space Ranger looks like a great addition to the Invincible universe. There isn't a ton of plot movement here, but the character interaction makes up for it.

I've really become accustomed to Ryan Ottley's pencils on this book. Original penciller Cory Walker returns here, and he looks fine, but I love Ottley's so much that I'm looking forward to him coming back. Walker draws Allen the Alien a bit bulkier than Ottley. Walker does do a nice job on giving the masses of Viltrumites relatively unique looks and his designs for Omni Man and Allen in their COP uniforms are strong. However, the screaming little bug-man in space is the best panel of the issue.

Good

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Batman: Streets of Gotham #4

So I've discovered a pattern here. The Bat-books that focus on the villains are still pretty darn strong.

Paul Dini spends most of this issue letting the reader get to know The Broker, the real-estate agent to the star-villains of Gotham City. Dini lays out a nice reason that there are so many giant typewriters and abandoned amusement parks in Gotham, back in its manufacturing boom; it was almost Vegas-like for entertainment. Now it's a cesspool of abandoned zoos and empty specialty shops. That's a darn cool idea. Dini really excels at these villain features, Broker is a scumbag, but even he has his limits. While setting up Mr. Zsasz in a meat-packing warehouse, he discovers that Zsasz is planning on some sort of gory show involving children. Zsasz's casual violence when one of the kids speaks up was chilling; Zsasz just says "one side" and stabs into a cage, pulling out a bloody knife when he's done. That's one cold dude.

I loved the idea that the Broker has given up info to Batman before. Dick Grayson (I need a quicker name for him as Batman. Maybe Nightbat or Batwing?) shows up demanding only the worst escapees from Arkham. He's willing to let some of the less-harmful villains slide for now so that he can nail the dangerous folks like Zsasz. Broker gives up the info, thinking about his own kids, and then takes a beating so that his clients will think Bats had to beat it out of him. The Broker is a fascinating and frankly likeable new character. I hope he's involved in the rest of this storyline.

Dustin Nguyen's work with Paul Dini has been strong since they teamed up, and this is no exception. His storytelling is clear and he does a nice job handling the variety of villains in the issue. His gloomy Gotham has a good, creepy feel to it.

The strong backup featuring Manhunter makes this one of the best values from DC these days. These two stories are well worth your $3.99.

Good

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Nomad: Girl Without a World #1

Sean McKeever gets to show off his greatest strength in this new mini. He's fleshing out a new character and making her really interesting and compelling.

Rikki Barnes is about a blank slate for me, but I find myself liking her and hoping she can turn her life around. Rikki is the Bucky of the Heroes Reborn Earth, now stuck on the core Marvel U Earth. She's trying to make her way with off-the-books jobs and forged documents. What interests me about her is that she has forged those documents to enroll in school and attempt to get to know the version of her brother on this new Earth. I predict her palling around with her brother may lead to some awkward moments, since he's unaware of why she's sticking so close, but it is an original idea to be sure.

After being warned away from Bucky-Cap by the Black Widow (whose black leather suit was giving a wedgie, I guess!) Rikki tries to go it alone and investigate some odd behavior at her school. When a disparate group of students from different social strata team up to shape up the school, Rikki follows them into the school basement, where she's knocked around by some kind of wolf-man. Bloodied and sort of in shock, she retreats to her apartment to find a Nomad costume on her bed. I expected a guest-star on that final splash page, after all, nothing legitimizes a limited series like a guest-star, but I was pleasantly surprised that Rikki might be going it alone for a bit. She's a fun hero with a strong, likable personality. I actually think she'd be a perfect new member for the Young Avengers after this mini.

David Baldeon does a nice job showing Rikki's different moods throughout the issue. She's mopey and depressed in her "normal" life. She's excited and giddy while operating as Bucky. And she's happy and hopeful while attending high-school. This was a better comic than I expected.

Good

Friday, September 25, 2009

Power Girl #5

Well, this wasn't as bad as I expected. When the solicits promised the villainy of 3 hot-space-party girls, I wasn't filled with anticipation. They actually play fairly close to normal, and while they do seem to be party girls, it isn't the mindless cheesecake I feared. I'm not entirely sold that this story needs more than one issue, but it wasn't bad.

The main strength of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's writing is that they have made PG into a relatable character. She makes mistakes, she forgets parts of her costume, but she keeps trying. She's definitely not a quitter and she is headstrong, two admirable qualities that make her fun to read about. I could do without the constant boob-jokes, but it isn't a huge deal since that is one of her main draws. I'm not sold on her supporting cast at her company yet either, I'm just not that into those parts of the book. So I guess I'm lukewarm on the supporting cast and core plot, but I really like the take on the main character.

Amanda Connor is always fun. PG acts like a real person, and the pencils play a huge part in what makes PG seem so likeable. Connor is good at drawing animals too, as PG's cat has a clear personality while only getting a couple panels per month.

Fair

Guardians of the Galaxy #18

As a Wonder Man fan, the minute I spotted "Hollywood" on the cover of Guardians, I knew I was in for a treat. Sure enough, DnA handle the character like the experts they are. Wondy is important to the plot, still kind of a bad-ass in his old age, and actually turns into a mentor type character to some alternate universe Guardians.

Starlord and his timelost crew get shunted to what is essentially the Earth of Killraven, an Orson Wells-inspired Earth where Martians have enslaved the human race. There's some weird aging going on, with everyone getting older or younger (except for Jack Flagg, who has some important destiny, it seems). The aging is played to good comedic effect, especially with the playful Cosmo the telekinetic dog. The bulk of the issue has the merged Guardian teams working against the Martians until the core cast is blinked out to another alternate Earth. I'm not sure if the Magus-ruled world at the end is the "main" timeline, but it certainly doesn't bode well for Starlord's crew.

This book is so much fun. This issue has it all, great guest-stars, classic villains, comedic interaction, and a strong cliffhanger. I've said it before, check out this comic.

Wes Craig's art is decent, but not quite as strong as the hyper-detail of Brad Walker. Craig does a good job too; I just prefer the regular penciller's take on these characters.

Excellent

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Avengers: The Initiative #28

Damn I love this comic. I honestly don't know how Christos Gage does it, but in this one issue he manages to set up both heroes and villains in ways that make them awesome. The most impressive part is that for most of them, he does it with only a few seconds of panel time.

After Prodigy and his Heavy Hitters (except Outback, a hilariously re-named Boomerang) secede from the Initiative, Norman Osborn is having none of it. He dispatches a few other villain-teams and a bunch of trainees out to destroy the Las Vegas based team. At the same time, Justice, Tigra, and the other Rebel Avengers are on the way to try and extract the Hitters from trouble. Prodigy gets the best moments in this. He's willing to take the rap for working for Osborn, even knowing that he was a villain. Prodigy had figured he could do good even while working for evil, but after finding out he was wrong, he's doing the right thing. There is a huge mass of villains called down on him, but he takes his lumps like a man, in full public eye, so that the public of the Marvel U sees how corrupt the Initiative has become. Things don't go smoothly though, as Taskmaster manages to shoot Night Thrasher II upside the head. The Rebel Avengers are forced to leave him behind. Now Osborn has a tempting offer concerning the original Night Thrasher. If Gage is planning on bringing back Thrash and Namorita, I will be one happy dude.

In an interesting revelation, Tigra sets up a few heroes with escape plans to get out of the country. I like that Tigra and Hank Pym (I still can't call him Wasp) are both working against the Dark Avengers, but separately so they can't compromise each other. Nice in-comic reasoning for a publishing decision.

Other developments in D-tier Marvel characters: Komodo is stripped of her powers. Constrictor, Penance, Hardball, and Butterball are media darlings and Osborn is milking it for all he can. The U-Foes and Force of Nature are both part of Osborn's hit squad. Justice and Ultragirl sort of break up. Debrii quits the Rebel Avengers. Obviously, this is one packed comic.

Rafa Sandoval is doing a great job with this enormous cast. He has a clean style that tells the story clearly, he's a good fit for the title.

Excellent

Blackest Night: Superman #2

Things are starting to become a little stale with the Blackest Night crossovers, which could be a problem considering we've got like 5 more months of these things coming up. After reading Geoff Johns' great dead-dialogue from the Martian Manhunter, Kal-L's didn't really impress me as anything new. I enjoyed James Robinson's use of the Psycho-Pirate. I'm not too familiar with the character, but I loved how rather than getting involved in the super-fight, he just wandered around Smallville causing minor problems and ruining lives in minor ways. I don't know if P-P was that petty while he was alive, but its neat seeing a villain who is being bad for badness sake, without a real goal. The Black Lantern Lois Lane of Earth-2 kind of had to be there, but I really don't know anything about her so I'm not too invested in the Ma Kent vs. Lois aspect of the book. The same goes for the Supergirl portion of the title on New Krypton. The last time I read Supergirl she had knocked down the President's plane in Amazon's Attack, so I am totally clueless on her relationship with her Mom and Dad.

What I like the most about this issue was actually just seeing Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl in action. These are top-tier heroes with classic powers, and I liked seeing them go up against villains that give them a run for their money. It seems like Superman is off in another book in a black suit and Superboy is just going on dates, so seeing these guys actually fight someone was really nice. Robinson also uses the emotion-spectrum idea to great effect. His use of strong, positive emotions for the leads makes them more heroic.

Eddy Barrows does a nice job on the gore and dessication of the Black Lanterns. He's more of a Teen Titans-style artist, so his teens look better than his adults, but he does a decent job on Supes.

Fair

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Marvel's December 2009 Solicits

And here we go with Marvel's offerings for December. There are a TON of trades shipping, so get your wallets ready. Comicsplusblog has my write-up.

Complete solicits are up at Newsarama.

Batgirl #2

And the march of average Bat-titles continues. I was always a fan of Stephanie Brown as the Spoiler, but I'm less interested in her as Batgirl, because I feel like she already had this kind of adversarial relationship with the bat-family when she was Robin. Having Barbara Gordon hanging out in this book as Steph's advisor makes sense, I suppose, but I'm still sore that Birds of Prey was cancelled to make Oracle available for her appearances here. BoP was a stronger title.

The core storyline is a new drug that turns folks into berserk maniacs, affecting everyone from college students to cops. Naturally, the mystery villain who created the drug is the Scarecrow. I think it's a wise move to put Steph up against a big-time threat like this right away; it will help legitimize her if she can take him down. I'm getting a weird vibe from the monologues from both Steph and Barbara, because they both seem to be downplaying Steph's potential as Batgirl. She's not as smart as Barbara, she's not as strong a fighter as Cassandra Cain, and she's not as good a detective as any of the Batmen. So why is she the new Batgirl? Hopefully this first arc will show me why, but right now, it is convincing me of the opposite.

Lee Garbett is sort of like a scratchier Mike Norton. His storytelling is fine, but to be honest Phil Noto's pencils on the covers are so impressive I can't help but be let down by the interiors. Garbett's storytelling is decent, though, and his take on Scarecrow is pretty iconic and cool. I'm looking forward to seeing his take on the new Batgirl costume.

Average

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Red Robin #4

I'm having a real disconnection with most of the Bat-world these days. I just don't buy Tim Drake as Red Robin, he's too angsty and surly, far different from the character I've liked for so long. I suppose having him team up with Ra's Al Ghul to try and discover what happened to Batman is interesting, but I don't like the alliance. Drake should know better than to team up with a nutbar like Ra's Al Ghul. Of course, perhaps my apathy for the Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul crossover is leaking over into this title. Chris Yost does a nice job of delivering on the fight promised on the cover (Dick Grayson vs. Tim Drake) without really compromising either character. Neither of these guys goes crazy, and it is clear they still care about each other. Their brotherly relationship is one of the better aspects of the issue.

Drake heads off to the Middle East and discovers a cave painting of the bat symbol, clear evidence that Bruce was sent back in time rather than being killed (or so it seems to Drake, I'm not sure how he can be certain Bats didn't do that some other time he had to skip around in time). Having Drake start to appreciate having a posse, even if they are killers, then taking them away was a nice touch. I'm hoping The Widower is some kind of anti-hero, but since he reports to a group called the Council of Spiders, I'm pretty sure he'll end up being a bad guy.

Ramon Bachs' art is ok, but sometimes things seem out of focus, almost like he drew everything at a smaller size and had his pencils enlarged electronically. Perhaps that's a result of the coloring?

Average

DC Comics' December 2009 Solicits

There's a fair amount of intriguing books from DC in December. Here's my ongoing feature at Comicsplusblog taking a peek.

Here's the Newsarama complete solicits for December.

Let me know what you think!







Monday, September 21, 2009

Invincible Iron Man #18

So we got two issues of Invincible Iron Man this month, and it kind of shows. The plot actually moved forward in this issue, with all our main players getting something to do (even if for Maria Hill, that was only getting rescued).

Matt Fraction has really painted a sad picture of Tony Stark in this story. The penultimate chapter of World's Most Wanted has Tony hiding out in the cave where he first created the Iron Man mk1. The big bulky armor looks old-fashioned, but still dang intimidating. I have to assume Stark has some plan that will put him over Osborn next issue, but at this point it looks like the original suit vs. the modern Iron Patriot armor that Osborn stole, and that's not going to be much of a contest. I love the time Fraction spends on HAMMER technician Walsh. The poor guy is ex-SHIELD and does retain some loyalty to Tony Stark. But he dutifully follows orders and has caught Stark slipping up numerous times over the past few issues. I love seeing Walsh wrestle with his conscience each issue, then break down and do the "easy" thing and follow orders. I hope this dude gets a heroic moment, which would be neat to see.

As expected, Pepper Potts was disguised as Madame Masque, but her plan goes further than that. After freeing Black Widow and Maria Hill, the Rescue armor inserts a virus into HAMMER's mainframes, and it seems this virus is also affecting the other Iron Man suits that Osborn has procured. Maybe we're in for a swarm of empty armors coming to bail out Tony next issue. At this point, Stark's supporting cast could make a strong argument that they should get armored ID's full time. War Machine and Rescue are easy, but with a little digging, I bet there could be a fleet of Iron Men out there.

Salvador LaRocca can handle the emotion and "acting" scenes, but I like the way he puts together his action sequences. The freeze-frame style worked well both in the crash and when Stark is ambushed by some local youth.

Good

Mighty Avengers #29

I'm afraid I'm just not that riveted by either aspect of the conflict in Mighty Avengers. The Unspoken is a neat idea for a bad guy, but he seems kind of generic. It certainly doesn't help that the only Avengers facing off against him are Quicksilver and US Agent. Perhaps I'll get more wrapped up in that aspect of the story when all 3 Avengers teams link up and take him on next issue.

The Young Avengers' battle with Loki/Scarlet Witch is much more exciting, but really, we are robbed of any type of conclusion. I assume any resolution would have to take place in Thor's title, so I never really thought there was a point to seeing the YA take Loki on. Perhaps I'll be wrong, but right now, it seems that way. I enjoyed seeing Hawkeye interact with the YA, and actually pick up a bow again too. I like Dan Slott's sneaky way of using the real Hawkeye rather than terrible Ronin, just tear up the costume! Nicely done, I'd be willing to accept that in all appearances going forward. Even better, keep Hawkeye on the Mighty Avengers as Hawkeye, then let him slum over in New Avengers in the padded-man suit of Ronin. It was fun seeing how Hawkeye tested out his Scarlet Witch theory too, I wonder how he'll feel when he finds out he planted a kiss on Loki?

Hank Pym and Jocasta's weird relationship is still fun to read about, especially when you remember that Jocasta has Wasp's brain. I'm still holding out hope for a return for the Wasp (since her death served no purpose). I think the interaction there could be very, very interesting. Wasp's ex-husband hanging out, perhaps intimately, with a robot based on her. Very weird, and very comic-booky. I hope it happens.

Koi Pham's art continues to vary between scratchy and decent. I like the guy's art when he has time, but it seems like half his panels are rushed. I'm looking forward to seeing Sean Chen's tighter work in upcoming issues.

Fair

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dark Reign: Daredevil: The List #1

I feel bad for any DD readers who pass on this issue. This is totally Daredevil #501, and it contains a few very important happenings that will be major plot points as Andy Diggle takes over the core title.

DD has taken over the hand, and Osborn isn't happy about it. He quickly dispatches Bullseye to face off against his old foe, and I actually thought the juxtaposition was quite well done. Bullseye came raiding into a dark hideout with armed police (HAMMER) on his side, while DD is hiding out and being tested by a criminal group. This is a great indicator of just how upside-down the Marvel U is these days. Bullseye quickly moves the fight away so he can make a statement, and this relocation brings up one of my few complaints about the issue. I wanted more Black Tarantula and White Tiger! I love these two street-level heroes functioning as DD's henchmen, so I was bummed they got written out so quickly!

Bullseye adds to his almost Joker-ish body count by blowing up a building filled with protesters, all to get a rise out of DD. This works of course, but I've got to think that Bullseye didn't quite think things through. Every time DD goes down a darker path and let's himself go crazy, Bullseye usually gets a helluva beating. Not exactly a good plan, Bullseye! I can't wait to see where Diggle takes the ongoing series; there is a ton of potential in the current direction.

Billy Tan's art is serviceable, but I've never been a big fan. His art is fine, but I love the dark, gritty feel of Michael Lark's art so much, I'm ready to go back to the regular series.

Good

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fury of Firestorm #8-15 (1982)

I'm continuing to "burn" through these old Firestorm back issues, and this time they're a bit more of a mixed bag.

The first villain for Ronnie Raymond in this batch was Typhoon. I've seen Typhoon before in other titles, but I liked just how messed up his origin is. This poor guy got lost under the sea in a submersible lab where he was transformed into an elemental. After returning to find he had been replaced as a husband and a father, he seeks revenge on those he blames for destroying his old life, including Dr. Martin Stein. There are some great sequences as the city is almost drowning (handled in a much better fashion than Ultimatum, I might add).

Next up was the Hyena, who happens to be the horribly-named sister of Ronnie's special lady Doreen. Summer Day suffers from the curse of Hyena, essentially a werewolf deal. She's spread the curse to her friend and doctor, and there is some mistaken identity hijinks as Firestorm attempts to halt the curse. He eventually stops the two Hyenas but not before he is infected with the curse himself. Ronnie and Dr. Stein can't split out of their now-furry form, so they head out to the Congo where a, ah, fairly stereotypical witch-doctor frees them from their curse.

The last couple issues in this stack have Dr. Stein's old assistant Multiplex return to torment Firestorm in an attempt to re-create the original accident that created Firestorm. I love the weird mix of origins with Firestorm, he's part Hulk and part Spider-Man. Multiplex is a kind of weakling, but since his genius is the real threat, the dupe-creating power is just kind of a bonus.

There's also a great fist-fight with nerd-rival Cliff Carmichael. Just like Peter Parker, Cliff is tougher than he appears and beats the snot out of Ronnie (although Ronnie was a tad out of it from other factors). I love that a guy so good in his heroic form has so many problems in his civilian ID.

The bulk of the art is by George Broderick, who has a nice classic style. I again find myself digging old 80s DC, an era I had written off. While I liked the first 7 issues more than this last stack, this is certainly good enough to keep me reading (and since I already bought through issue 60, I have to read them!) Any suggestions on other 80s DC books that hold up this well?

Fair

Friday, September 18, 2009

Batman & Robin #4

Grant Morrison's story keeps trucking along, continuing directly from the initial three issues. That does make the artistic shift more jarring (see below) though. The Red Hood and Scarlet are killing off Gotham villains. I believe everyone the Hood dispatches in this issue are new creations from Morrison, which is a nice change. As everyone knows, I can't stand when writers kill off characters that others developed, and Morrison avoids that issue by creating, then killing, his own creations.

Dick Grayson and Damian have a few nice character moments, but for me the best scene of the issue is the introduction of a masked celebrity at a high-roller's dinner. Only in comics. Morrison's idea to have Scarlet twittering during her kills seems like an attempt to be topical, but I've seen it in 3 or 4 Joe Casey books at this point, so it wasn't all that quirky to see it again. I'm not sure if it is Jason Todd under the red hood, but I hope it is. His ranting and rehearsing as he prepares to address the public is one of the most interesting things I've seen him do since his ill-advised return.

Phillip Tan is no Frank Quitely. The art here, while competent enough, is a huge step down from the revelatory work Quitely delivered last issue. Scarlet's creepy scene with her doll-face is decently haunting, but it would be way more creepy if Tan could mimick the odd puffiness from the last few issues.

Fair

Walking Dead #65

Robert Kirkman is the man. What I love about Kirkman is that I have absolutely no idea how his pacing is going to go. He can spend a loooooong time having his characters sit around and just talk, but when they need to get something done, the story flies. Rick showed that his pronouncement last issue wasn't just talk, he wants to go after the hunters immediately. He puts together a team of the best fighters in his posse and they head out to track down the cannibals who attacked Dale. Dale and Andrea do get a few tender moments before they are separated, and that was nice to see. I'd imagine your personal connections would blaze fiercely in such a horrific post-apocalyptic world.

It doesn't take long for Rick's crew to track down the Hunters. There is a great little confrontation as Rick almost gives them a chance to explain themselves. There is no excuse for the cannibalism they are engaged in, but hearing the almost sane rationalizations from the Hunter leader is pretty fun. They guy isn't really about to convince anyone, but you can start to see why he believes it. The showdown goes down about as well as long-time readers can expect, I won't ruin it. I will say the closing line of "Maybe we'll have us a taste" is one heckuva way to close the book.

Charlie Adlard. You know what you're getting; strong emotional work and decent action sequences.

Good

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Captain America: Reborn #3

I'm impressed at how much exposure Ed Brubaker is giving the entire Marvel U while he spends time bringing back Captain America. Steve Rogers gets some time here, and he seems to finally be taking an active hand in his own fate (what secret message did he give the Vision?) but I'm still impressed. This issue had the Thunderbolts, Vision, Hank Pym, Falcon, Red Skull, Sin, and Crossbones. This is a great little window into the current state of the Marvel U.

Steve Rogers is still bouncing around in time, and from what he says, it seems pretty random to me. He opens the issue trapped in ice and later re-experiences key moments from the Kree-Skrull War. Back in the present, the Avengers (well, really only the Falcon) stage a big rescue, attacking the Thunderbolts while they are transporting Winter Cap. Brubaker did a great job with only a few panels with the T-bolts. Ghost seems superior and condescending, Scourge seems brutal and over confident. Paladin seems laid back (that shot of him unconscious is great) and Ant-Man III seems desperate to be out of there. Ant-Man's actions are fantastic, a great glimpse at the character and how desperate he is. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Vision's message from Cap entails. Vision is another character getting valuable face-time in this series that he doesn't really get elsewhere these days.

I'm so amused by Bryan Hitch as I read this thing. It is so clear which panels interest him and which ones don't. The Namor splash, the awesome flashback to the Kree-Skrull War? Filled with Hitchy goodness. The new Thunderbolts or Hank Pym? Not quite as much time spent there, since they look a lot more Butch Guice-ish. Don't get me wrong, I like both pencillers, but man, it must have been amusing seeing this put together.

Good

Blackest Night #3

I have mixed feelings about the newest chapter in the Blackest Night saga. The opening battle was great, with the Black Lantern JLA facing off against Hal and Barry. The Atom quickly announces his presence (he's still alive, darn it) and there is some great back and forth with all the dead folks as they try to torment the living. I particularly liked Geoff Johns' voice for the Ronnie Raymond Firestorm. Ronnie has a great line about how he "tries to avoid thinking about stupid stuff" or something like that as he tries to convince Barry Allen to be the new nerd in his head. I became immediately less interested with the Indigo Tribe showed up. I guess the Indigo Lanterns of compassion can somehow make the Black Lanterns vulnerable to normal damage if their indigo light is combined with the light of another lantern. It sure looked like Ralph and Sue Dibney were obliterated. That doesn't give me much hope that the Black Lanterns will be resurrected, but I can still hope. I'm a little confused on the "rules" of the different lantern corps and how they affect each other, that mythology is so involved I find myself tuning out a bit when characters start going on and on about it.

Johns brings the action again in the upsetting closing conflict. After Barry, Hal, and the Atom team up with the Jason Rusch Firestorm and Mera at JLA HQ, the Black Lanterns follow them there. Mera had just explained that emotional turmoil is like blood in the water for the Black Lanterns, so I guess the JLA wasn't quite as calm as they'd hoped. Ronnie Raymond does a bad, bad thing to Jason Rusch's gal Gehenna at the close of this issue. I don't see how Ronnie could be a sympathetic character at this point even if he gets resurrected. My theory is that Jason and Ronnie end up sharing the Firestorm body after Blackest Night, but that is going to be one tense, uncomfortable relationship now.

There is a bit of character-defining dialogue with Hal and Barry explaining how they see each other as both people and heroes, but frankly the discussion seemed a tad out of place while under siege from super-zombies. Jason or Mera should have told the two of them to kiss and make up, it wasn't the time for a heart-to-heart.

One other concern: based on the November solicits, it seems Wonder Woman is going to have a big part in the story at some point. I think by issue 3 all the main players should be on the board, so I'm not sure I approve of the choice to leave game-changing elements off the page for so long.

Ivan Reis' pencils are fantastic. I can't overstate how great everything looks and how well he's mixing super-hero epic with horror. This is quite the accomplishment.

Good

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Video Game Review: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Nothing better than judging a video game on only two hours of play, but I think I spent enough time playing on a friend's PS3 last night to make some quick judgements on the new Marvel game.

The story opens up in Latveria, where NPC Nick Fury is leading Iron Man, Cap, Wolverine, and Spider-Man on an assault on Countess Barden's castle. Fury explains to the heroes that the Countess and the Tinkerer have been supplying the Marvel U's low-level bad guys for years. The heroes really seemed like they were uncomfortable with each other, so I'm not sure this is a continuity where these guys have served in the Avengers together. They didn't seem to know Fury too well either. This story is basically Brian Michael Bendis' Secret War mini. After taking out the Countess and destroying the castle, the heroes retire to Stark Tower to interact with heroes from the Marvel U, answer trivia questions, and go on training missions, all very much like Ultimate Alliance 1.

The main reason I play these comic games is to experience comics in a more interactive way. In just two hours, we got a fair amount of interaction with known characters.

  • Villains included Electro, Scorcher, the Wizard, and the Tinkerer
  • Heroes I encountered were Black Widow, Justice, Thor, and the previously mentioned Nick Fury

I played three characters as we moved through the levels:

  • Iron Man - great powers, including some nice repulsor beams and flight. This will be a default for me
  • Gambit - surprisingly fun, his card-throwing was very effective but his one-liners were awful
  • Invisible Woman - I liked her Ult Alliance 1 power-set better, but she's still pretty tough. She can pick up heavy objects using her powers, a nice way for her to mimic super-strength

I didn't like the dialogue or voice acting as much in this installment as the previous one. A lot of the one-liners are cringe-worthy. The game-play is VERY easy, I think I only dropped once on the normal difficulty. The minions are repetetive, of course, but the game attempts to spice things up with the occasional odd objective or bonus item. The heals are pretty common and the specials are fun to mix and match depending on which characters are in use. The power sets are fun too, with most characters getting a distance power and an area of affect power, in addition to basic punches and strikes. Some folks can fly, or web-swing, or flip around like maniacs. There is some interaction with NPCs that affects the ongoing game. You can respond to NPCs in "Aggressive" or "Diplomatic" or similar fashions. I'm curious to see how that will affect your game play later on. All in all the controls were very intuitive, it can take me some time to master new games but I found myself moving around nicely very quickly.

I will definitely grab this game for my X-Box 360, but I'm not sure if I'll wait for the price to drop. I'm leaning towards picking it up soon. I'm ready to build my main team (I'm thinking Iron Man, Songbird, Iron Fist, and Cage or Juggernaut).

Fair

Ultimatum #1-5

You can't be serious. I've heard all the bad press about Ultimatum, and I'm shocked to admit that everyone was right. This was terrible. Why bother setting up a complex new continuity just to allow Jeph Loeb to come and tear it apart. I don't have an issue with where things end up, since all the deaths and cataclysms will lead to the Ultimate U being very different from the Marvel U.

But Loeb's wholesale slaughter is just lazy. Drowning 3 X-Men off-panel is lazy. Describing the remote deaths of the Hellions is lazy. Using Dormammu and Hela in essentially their Marvel U interpretations is lazy. The deaths where Loeb actually showed more creativity went from effecting, like Magneto's snapping of Xavier's neck, to ridiculously unnecessary.

This series had the Blob eating Wasp's innards, Yellowjacket blown apart by a horde of suicide Madroxes, and Sabretooth ripping off Angel's wing before snapping his neck with a kick. Hell, even after Magneto was dealt with, Cyclops had his head blown off while making a speech? This was a hot mess. I mean, Thor taking Valkrie's place in Hel? What does that serve? This whole series felt like a bunch of barely controlled chaos. The heroes just run around and die for awhile, then take out Magneto when the series is about to end. There was no real rising action or normal story arc, just a bunch of choppy scenes followed by a "shock" ending.

There are too many pages spent dealing with the recovery of Nick Fury from the Squadron Surpeme universe too. I never understood why Fury's absence enabled Doom to kick things off by killing the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Hell, part of my problem with this series is that I never read Ultimates 3 or Ultimate Secret, so I felt like I didn't understand anyone's motivations. I've read a ton of Ultimate comics, but this didn't even have a consistent feel.

The choice to have Spider-Man disappear is an odd one too. What did it serve taking him out of the story? My only rationale is that sending him along on the strike mission would darken his character too much.

Avoid this. In fact, this might be so bad it will keep me away from Mark Millar's Ultimate Comics' Avengers. I mean, with Thor, Yellowjacket, Wasp, and so many more dead, why bother reading about the Avengers? Isn't it a 3 man team now (Hawkeye, Cap, and Iron Man).
David Finch's art was hyper-gory and dark. I will admit I'm amused at his hot ladies, especially the super-endowed Valkrie. I suppose I can't blame him for the story, and his gory panels looked shocking, there is no doubt. That panel of Blob eating Wasp is one I'll probably never forget.

Poor

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Models Inc. #1

Wow. I was hoping this would be so campy that I'd dig it, but after trying to power through a few pages, I couldn't even finish this thing. As I flipped through I saw that Paul Tobin is sticking with Marvel continuity, as in Patsy Walker is still Hellcat, but man. This was brutal for me to finish. I'm sure I'm not the target audience, but I really don't care about models trying to solve a murder. Looking at the title, this is totally my fault, I should have known better than to pick up this one! I've enjoyed Tobin's other work, so I think I'll just assume this is a miss for me because of the subject matter.

Vicenc Villagrasa's art is pleasant and bright, and fits the material well. The ladies all have good individual looks and the guys look fabulous.

I don't know who Tim Gunn is, but he puts on some Iron Man armor in the backup. I think once again, I'm not the target audience. I did like his pithy comments towards the thugs as he smacked them around in the Iron Man suit, but I'm pretty sure I'm missing the joke.

I dig retro books quite a bit, but I guess retro-books homaging old Millie the Model books is where I have to draw the line! This was obviously poor for me, but I'm thinking if someone had different (as in accurate) expectations, perhaps they'd dig this one.

Poor (probably just me though!)

Daredevil #116-500: Return of the King

This story was entertaining enough, but I never really felt a sense of momentum or danger in Ed Brubaker's final story. Master Izo seemed to have things so well in hand and DD was always so competent, that most of the danger in this arc has been my concern about what would happen to Black Tarantula and White Tiger. They made great goons for the Hand, but I really do dig the way Master Izo set up Tarantula to come in to play later. It was well set up by Brubaker, it was clear there was something going on, but we didn't know exactly what until issue 500.
Lady Bullseye is an interesting new addition to DD's rogues, since she doesn't really bring anything new to the table. Elektra is probably a better fighter and we see in issue 500 that being at Bullseye's level of hand-to-hand combat isn't enough to seriously threaten DD (that was a great moment, by the way). I'd say the neatest thing about Lady B is that since she's a lawyer by day, she can challenge Matt Murdock just as effectively as she does DD.

Brubaker ends the arc with some interesting choices. Kingpin is back in his normal role as crime boss of New York. Lady B is off the scene. Milla is written out since she's off with her parents. All status quo stuff. But DD himself? That's where Brubaker throws the curveball. I love that it seems to be a new habit for the outgoing DD writer to leave the new guy in a tight spot. With Andy Diggle coming on, he's got to deal with DD being the new leader of the Hand. That's an evil organization, but DD is going to try to steer them towards good, with Tarantula and White Tiger "watching his back." That's a fantastic status quo, and it could lead to some neat interaction in upcoming stories. I'd love to see DD interact with the Agents of Atlas, since both now lead evil groups.

Overall, this was an interesting arc, but not one that I was on the edge of my seat to read. Perhaps it will hold up better when read in one sitting. It was well crafted, but it didn't have the frantic excitement of DD's time in prison or travels in Europe. I wasn't as emotionally invested since Milla was never really in danger, and the main players all kind of deserve the situation they find themselves in.

Michael Lark's art is wonderful. No one does gritty street action better; he's the perfect artist for this title. His "turned" Tarantula and Tiger looked fantastic; I even thought their body language seemed different while they were turned. His action scenes looked great too, with DD and Izo flying about kicking butt. In fact, the mood and storytelling with his pencils are good enough to elevate my grade to good, since I do want to re-read the entire arc to savor those pencils again.

Good

Monday, September 14, 2009

War of Kings: Who Will Rule? #1

Gladiator is a pimp. His mourning costume (all black) makes him look bad-ass, I'm so pleased he's getting such a big role in cosmic Marvel. There is little plot movement here, but there are some nice character scenes as the Inhumans arrive on the Shi'ar throneworld and eventually decide to place Gladiator in charge of the Empire. I loved the idea that the Imperial Guard wouldn't honor the Shi'ar surrender until Gladiator accepted the mantle of leadership. They know the toughest guy around. DnA plant some seeds for the upcoming Realm of Kings storyline. The neatest bits show that Gladiator's main advisor is in fact a disguised Talon, who will be working against the altruistic nature of the new Shi'ar praetor. Magus and the rift in space time will be a central location for both the Kree and Inhumans moving forward. It seems Crystal and Ronan the Accuser's relationship could continue to develop too, based on how Crystal reacts to Polaris' teasing.

I can't recommend cosmic Marvel highly enough. DnA's cohesive vision have made this entire branch of the Marvel U an integrated, intriguing place where anything can happen, yet the stories still retain a "classic" feel. These guys love classic characters and it shows in their handling of even side-characters like Maximus the Mad. (He's convinced he should be placed in charge of the Shi'ar. When the royal family is attacked, he comments "this never would have happened under my rule.")

Heck, the Imperial Guard and Gladiator are an "homage" to the Legion of Super-Heroes and Superboy, yet I'm digging the Marvel version more than DC these days.

Paul Pelletier's work is always so fun. Gladiator's black costume is strikingly cool. The Imperial Guard members look right, some dark, some shiny, he even gets their different textures right. I liked the mourning costumes for the Inhumans too, with Medusa's hanging facemask and Crystal's domino mask.

Good

Secret Six #13

Gail Simone's prison story is a lot of fun, but I'm not sure I totally understand where it's going. Slowly but surely, the entire Six is betraying their contract and switching over to the good guys' side. Last issue Bane, Scandal, and Jeannette had already decided to help Artemis and her fellow Amazons, with Catman, Deadshot, and Ragdoll trying to honor their contract and work for the bad guys. Catman's resolve lasts until he is personally asked by Wonder Woman to rescue her Amazon sisters. Catman can't resist and switches, leaving Deadshot and Ragdoll uncertain what they'll do next. There is plenty of violence here, including a great confrontation where Scandal offers some prison guards time to pray or contact their loved ones, but not do both. In a neat twist of that smack-talk, some of the guards actually take her up on it. Having a guard call his wife before he's gutted by Scandal was a great reminder that all these flunkies are people with families. Simone gives some resonance to a flunky's death that I never would have imagined.

The Grendel/Devil we saw last issue gets released at the end of the issue, but I'm not sure how scared I should be of this guy. Is he an existing DC character? Is he new? Is he supposed to be the actual Devil? I'm sure the upcoming fight with this guy and Wonder Woman will be good. With Simone being so skilled at balancing her cast, I'm sure the fight with the prison bosses versus the Six will be satisfying too.

Nicola Scott does a nice job with the current action, as always, but she gets some neat flashbacks in this one too. Jeannette has an injury-inspired vision of the Six in silly Victorian costumes that is appropriately jarring. The glimpse into Scandal's childhood is upsetting too, where we see her 9-year old self beaten by thugs before Vandal Savage gives her the wrist-blades she uses so well. That's the moment when she became the hard woman we know.

Good

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Exiles #6

What a crime that this book is ending so soon. Jeff Parker's version of the Exiles has been fun from start to finish. The story was a great sequel to the previous volume of the series. In the opening recap, Morph declares that some of the subplots could have been entertaining for years, but "since the book is cancelled, check out page 13!" That's awesome. Parker has proven that I need to check every book he writes.

The team quickly wraps up the mutant world storyline by setting up Phoenix against the White Queen. Sure, they are just fighting over Cyclops' affections, but I guess that is enough to break up the mutant alliance that was threatening that reality. Morph then kindly sends the team on a few day vacation on in an easy-going reality. When it is time to move on for their next mission, the team shows that they have been onto Blink as a plant for Morph. Parker lays out a neat situation where a team of the "founding" Exiles (Nocturne, Blink, Heather Hudson, and Morph) are working to repair the multiverse using the same crystal palace as used in the past series. I loved the connection to the previous volume of the series. Tying the broken timelines to trouble with Kang was a great idea. Parker even goes so far as to set up the idea that other Kangs are creating other teams of Exiles working at cross-purposes with the core cast. This really could have been a neat ongoing situation. I'm sad to see the title end, but with nice splash page showing the current lineup, at least it is possible these characters pop up somewhere.

Salva Espin brings the title home nicely. This title had a nice consistent feel throughout and I'm sad to see it go. If this becomes available in trade, it is worth checking out just for the fun alternate takes on each character.

Good

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ghost Rider: The Last Stand TPB

Jason Aaron has been hard at work making the Ghost Rider into a legacy character, and that approach pays off in the TPB Ghost Rider: The Last Stand. The story covers the origin of a new Caretaker, this one an ex-nun who never knew of her family's role in protecting the Ghost Rider legacy. She's a handy character, because as she reveals back-story about the spirits of vengeance to Johnny Blaze, it illuminates things for the reader too. There are Ghost Riders all over the world, tied to every religion. These spirits of vengeance are tied into different religions and mythologies. We get extended looks at Muslim, Chinese, and Voodoo Riders, and glimpses of other, the neatest being a Ghost Rider riding a freaking shark. The sad part is that Johnny's brother Danny Ketch, in service to the evil angel Zadkiel, has killed most of the Ghost Riders on the planet. After enlisting some old villains like the Orb and Blackout to kill the previous Caretaker, the race is on for Johnny Blaze and the new Caretaker to stop Danny from finishing his task.

The battle eventually takes the surviving spirits and Caretaker to the City of Bones in the Congo, where there is a terrific battle of the forces of good/vengeance against Danny and the Black Host, Zadkiel's evil angels. Through some manipulation using the great hellfire shotgun (from Spirits of Vengeance!) Danny wins, and the combined power of the Ghost Riders is beamed along to Zadkiel to assist him in tearing down the walls of heaven. After a couple pages, Danny pops back, collapsing on the ground in front of Blaze and Caretaker. Danny realizes he was on the wrong side, but he's devastated that it is too late, Zadkiel has already conquered heaven. Aaron is weaving an epic story about heaven while giving us a great personal conflict too. The sibling "rivalry" of the Ghost Riders is fascinating to see, I can't see how these two get along in the future, since I assume they will be going against Zadkiel soon. Zadkiel himself is a tad reminiscent of Asmodel, the Bull-Angel from Zauriel's JLA origin, but he's pretty darn scary on his own. I actually own a lot of Ghost Rider comics, since I loved Danny back in the 90s, only now with Aaron's take on the title do I find myself switching my allegiance and becoming a Johnny Blaze fan.

I like the recurrence of the Deputy from Aaron's first arc too. He's a bad guy now, which surprised me a bit, but I'm liking the idea that he may be the new Vengeance (another Spirits of Vengeance relic). Aaron is building up a nice little rogues gallery for ol flame-head.

Tan Eng Huat's artwork is so stylized that I think it actually hurts the story in places. He can handle the oddball stuff like flaming skulls, eye-ball heads, and speeding bikes, but his faces for normal folk look a bit odd. I'm looking forward to seeing Walking Dead's Tony Moore handle some art in the next trade.

Good

Red Circle: The Shield #1

JMS did a nice job with his Red Circle re-launch. The last two one-shots were much stronger than the first two. Both the Web and the Shield made very positive first impressions.

The issue opens with a tense scene of combat as a unit commander takes his group into danger facing off against arms traffickers in Afghanistan. It ends with an ambush that kills most of the unit but leaves the leader mortally wounded and perfect for an experimental new procedure. After a few months, Joseph Higgins is reborn as the Shield, one of the first super-heroes to be an active part of the military. Higgins is an earnest patriot doing his duty. He's got a public ID to inspire his fellow soldiers and he's out there fighting for them until the Shield procedure drops in price to be available for more soldiers. There is some typical shady dialogue from Higgins' commanding officers, but for the most part I was pleased at the positive portrayal of the American military. In his Civil War tie-ins, the heavy-handed political statements were very common, but I think JMS may have dialed back his agenda a bit here. I love the idea of a public hero working in the military, I'd love to see him interact with other heroes like Magog. Another great character available (and previously drawn by Scott McDaniel) would be the Veteran.
Scott McDaniel's art is a known quality now; you either love it or hate it. I love the way McDaniel handles kinetic action scenes and his storytelling is very clear. I think the Red Circle experiment was a successful one and I'll keep an eye on both ongoing titles over the next few months.

Good

Friday, September 11, 2009

Green Lantern Corps #40

I'm still enjoying Blackest Night and the emotional conflicts it is dredging up. There is so much going on in Peter Tomasi's Green Lantern Corps, there has got to be something in here for everyone.

  • Kyle Rayner, exhibiting Will, Love, and Hope, reunites with Jade and plays along with her attempts to seduce him, but after realizing he can't get any answers from her, Kyle goes off and attacks her. Smart guy.
  • Bzzd returns from the dead as the tiniest Black Lantern and starts slaughtering GLs. Guy Gardner eventually takes him out but it is a great man vs. fly conflict.

  • Salaak confronts the Alpha Lanterns and puts them in their place. With the Guardians out of it, Salaak is now in charge of the Corps. His first decision is to stop recruiting rookies into the horrific environment of Blackest Night.
  • Krybb and a Star Sapphire (can't remember her name) are searching for Krybb's missing kids. Knowing how sick Tomasi can be, I'm worried.
  • Soranik Natu and Princess Iolande show up in the GL infirmary to try and stop the Black Lanterns from taking out the weakened GLs. (This includes a great scene where the wounded GLs are trying their best to fight off their attackers.)

If that sounds action packed, that's because it is. There are tons of characters getting face time in this, I'm really impressed at how Tomasi is juggling this huge cast and still giving characters a chance to shine.

Patrick Gleason rocks this issue, as he always does. His take on Jade looks great, she's still sort of attractive even in her evil Black Lantern suit. I also never thought I'd be sad to see Bzzd come back, but I missed that little guy.

Excellent

Dark Reign: The List: Avengers #1

You know, I really should know better by now. Be warned, this is yet another rant about how I hate Bendis' work with Hawkeye.

I had been excited at the prospect of these List specials, since they had a kind of similar tone as the old connected Annuals of the late 80s and early 90s. The prospect of seeing Norman Osborn face off against the Avengers was intriguing. I knew Clint Barton/Hawkeye/Ronin was supposed to have a big part too, and Bendis promised a big development with the character. So I naturally figured Clint might end up as Hawkeye again so I picked up this issue.

Mistake.

I hate Bendis' take on Clint Barton. Clint spends the issue rambling on with an ill-formed plan about how killing Osborn is the best option. How he doesn't need a real plan to do it. Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Clint's wife Mockingbird all try to talk him out of it, explaining that it is wrong for heroes to kill and that how a hero acts in the tough times defines what kind of hero he is. It's funny, because this is all stuff I've heard Clint say in the past when he was an actual heroic character. In this he's whiny, sneaky, and pouty. This character bears so little resemblance to the Hawkeye I like that I was actually cheering for Ares at the end of the issue. Hell, Clint brings along a bunch of guns and shoots Bullseye! Why bother having this be Hawkeye? This could be any generic gun-toting doofball. The issue closes with Clint knocked out and arrested, after trying to take on Ares and Norman Osborn. So let's add moronic to Clint's character traits. All the traits I liked about Hawkeye are gone, so really, I suppose I have to admit I don't like the character.

I did like that Clint was able to take out Bullseye, Venom, and Daken, and it was also cool seeing Bendis acknowledge the romantic history Clint shares with Moonstone. But that's about the extent of the good stuff. (The plot was pretty simple, obviously, Clint infiltrated Avengers Tower and got caught. That's really about it.)

Marko Djurdjevic does a nice job on the art, actually elevating the content with his pencils. I liked his take on Mockingbird's new costume especially. I bet he would have done a bang-up job on the real Hawkeye suit, don't you think?

Average

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Justice League: Cry for Justice #3

Uch. I think this is my last issue of Cry for Justice. This comic is terrible. I honestly can't believe that James Robinson has the Atom torturing villains by jumping around in their heads, the same way his wife killed Sue Dibney in Identity Crisis. That's just foolish. Then Robinson adds fuel to the fire by having Green freaking Arrow, the ultra-liberal, standing around debating if it is torture or not! C'mon man! Add in the silly "I want justice!" dialogue that every character is spouting and this is a mess. Supergirl is no fun and really serves no point on the team. The Atom has gone from having no personality to having one I don't like (he actually says something about having pain that aspirin won't take away). Green Arrow and Green Lantern might be on their way to becoming villains. Mikaal Tomas is boring. The only character having any fun and acting in an interesting manner is Congorilla. He gets the best lines and is by far the most likable character in the comic.

Another HUGE problem I have with this issue in particular is that Robinson has Prometheus kill off the Global Guardians. As I have stated many times, I hate it when authors kill off characters just to make their current bad guys seem more nefarious. The worst offense is killing characters that the author has never even written (like this case with the Guardians). Robinson spent zero effort developing those characters yet he has no problem killing them (off-panel) to make his story seem more important. My only hope is that since these deaths are all described by Prometheus in flashback, it is entirely possible Prometheus is lying and another writer can just explain this away as villainous boasting. This series is not good enough to be worthy of killing off any characters, even 3rd rate folks like the Guardians.

I mean, I love Prometheus and want him to take the stage as a top-tier villain. But not like this. "NOT LIKE THIS!" (I should start quoting Hawkeye more.)

Mauro Cascioli's art is dramatic, but he makes some terrible choices in this. There are two panels where most of the team is talking to Supergirl's breasts. I like his take on Congorilla and Captain Marvel Jr., but everyone looks like a drama queen. Everyone has single tears going down their faces or clenched teeth and fists. Ugh.

Poor

Red Tornado #1

I'm surprised how entertaining I found this comic. Let me be honest, I have little to no interest in Red Tornado, he's always been too generic a character for me. He doesn't really have much of a personality and it seems that most folks fall into one of the two high-collar outstider camps for the JLA; either you like the Martian Manhunter or you dig Red Tornado, and baby, I'm a J'onn J'onnz guy. But now I'm willing to concede there may be a point in Red Tornado too.

Kevin Van Hook's limited is focusing on the relationship between a group of "sibling" robots that include Red Tornado. While Red Tornado is the most famous, it seems T.O. Morrow actually built a water-based 'bot first; Red Torpedo. She turned on Morrow and forced him to deactivate her, but in her current state she's still sent out a call for help to the other elemental robots. I really enjoyed Van Hook's description of her voice as hot sounding. If you're building a robot, why not make her have a nice voice?

The other big 'bot we see here is Red Volcano, a bully who gets off on killing guards as he makes his way to T.O. Morrow's prison cell in Belle Reve. I'm not sure that's where he's supposed to be after 52, but I'm confused on the current status of much of the DCU these days. In any case, Morrow informs Volcano of Inferno, another elemental bot who is living in secret and may not even know he's a robot. The series has some neat ideas and we're certainly lucky there are so many elemental-related words that end with "o."

Jose Luis (didn't he used to have "Ryp" in his name?) does a decent job with the art. He's got the same style as Ed Benes so this issue looks like it was ripped from the pages of JLA. I'm not the biggest fan of this art style, but at least it is consistent for the modern interpretation of Red Tornado.

Fair

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

War of Kings: Warriors 1&2

With issue 1 written by Christos Gage and issue 2 penned by Jay Faerber, I had high expectations for this limited series. Unfortunately, we don't really get too impressive of stories. I suppose it is the layout of the issues (each issue is split between lead characters, with Gladiator, Blastaar, Crystal, and Lilandra getting the headline roles), but these stories really felt generic. I don't think the leads were really that enhanced by what we got here, this was really filler material. I believe these issues are collections of material originally presented on Marvel.com. I'm going to use this as a learning experience and stay away from this type of reprint material in the future. I think the content generated for the website must be superfluous by design, so there really isn't any driving reason to seek it out.

Gladiator's origin makes him seem more mundane, as does Blastaar's. I think these characters benefited from their mysterious pasts, and seeing their roots makes them a bit less interesting. Crystal's story has her facing off against generic terrorist and espousing her views that were already made clear in the core War of Kings mini. Lilandra has never really interested me as anything more than a supporting character, so I had to strain just to finish her chapter.

The art is fine throughout the issues, but the subject matter is so generic that there were no moments or characters worth going crazy over.

Average

Batman & Robin #3

That was a great comic. Grant Morrison delivers a mind-bending thrill ride that is hard to describe. Morrison's best work mixes the insanity with solid heroics, and that is precisely what he's delivering with this comic. Dick Grayson/Batman and Damian Wayne are a fantastic pairing, with Dick finally becoming comfortable being Batman and starting to be the bad-ass we all know he is. Damian is a hilarious little jerk who is just a shade away from becoming a villain himself. Those two provide the solid heroics that I enjoy in my funnybooks. The insanity comes from the villains.

Mr. Pyg is a horrifying fat dude in a mask who rambles and threatens the tied-up Boy Wonder. There is a 3 page sequence where Pyg turns on some music and chubbily dances his way over to Robin, rambling and ranting totally insane dialogue the whole time. It is one of the most upsetting and captivating scenes I've read in months, if not years. It is precisely this type of insanity that makes Morrison the fantastic writer he is. Of course Batman and Robin prevail, but Morrison has more delights lined up for us since one of Mr. Pyg's dollies meets up with a new benefactor as the issue closes. A new Red Hood has arrived, and I'm sure he's going to be crazy. Morrison also delivers on the first scene in Batman RIP as Dick and Robin take out Le Bossu. Morrison is writing an epic here, folks, don't miss it.

Morrison's story wouldn't work as well without the unsettling visuals of Frank Quitely. Quitely delivers wondrous work that unsettles even as it entertains. This is just about the pinnacle of adult super-hero comics.

Excellent

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Guardians of the Galaxy #17

Well, I didn't see that coming. DnA are wrapping up the final elements from their War of Kings mini-series here and they cover some important stuff. It seems that Black Bolt's T-Bomb has opened a rift in space/time (don't you hate it when that happens?) and it is up to Adam Warlock to fix it. I love the idea that Warlock has to seek out early series antagonists the Church of Universal Harmony to power his spell to fix the tear in reality. Some of the Guardians are still missing in the future, so it is up to Rocket Raccoon's band of heroes to give Warlock the time he needs to accomplish his repair spell. Maximus the Mad and Groot are a huge help as they construct a complicated device to help stop the expansion of the tear. Oh, and Groot? It turns out the one thing Groot can say, "I am GROOT," is in fact a nuanced, complicated way of communication that most of us are not smart enough to hear. Maximus is positively delighted to discuss science with the wooden giant. Is Maximus crazy on this? I don't think so, since Groot is actually drawn helping to construct the life-saving device.

The shocking part of the issue hits when Warlock "ties reality to an unused future." That's some nice comic-science and it kicks off a startling chain of events. Phyla, as the champion of Death, kills Adam Warlock. Then Gamora avenges Adam by slaying Phyla. Then Adam Warlock rises as the Magus and kills Gamorra. Read that again, that's some packed pages! Now I'm sure that some or all of those characters will return, but damn, this is an exciting comic.

Brad Walker's detailed pencils are a fantastic fit for this title. His take on the Inhuman guest-stars is strong too. He draws pretty ladies, so Medusa and Crystal look great.

Excellent

Green Lantern #45

Geoff Johns had kind of hinted that John Stewart would be featured in this issue of GL (if I'm remembering my rumors right). While John did get some important development with the "raising" of Xanshi as a Black Lantern planet, he doesn't get a whole lot of face time through the issue. Most of the book is dedicated to Sinestro's attack on the Star Sapphires and the confrontation between Sinestro and Carol Ferris. I enjoyed seeing the two of them face off, mainly because the two characters have such an interesting history. They both have been close to Hal Jordan, but they haven't necessarily had much contact with each other, so they basically have to operate off of what they've heard about the other. Sinestro's biting comments about how Carol's life has been full of disappointments were pretty mean, but I do worry that setting Carol up as a character who will do anything for Hal makes her pretty weak. I like that she's the only Star Sapphire who retains control (making that group seem like they might be villains after all).

Sinestro gets a big flashback too, as we see his true love. Green Lantern Corps showed that Sinestro is Soranik Natu's father, and Johns shows us the mother this issue; Abin Sur's sister. So that makes Soranik the niece of Abin Sur. This is a big retcon, but at the same time it really binds Soranik into the GL mythos in a neat way. Johns and Peter Tomasi have made her into a central figure in GL continuity.

Doug Mahnke's art looks fantastic, as always. He seems to be having fun with the odd-looking Sinestro Corps and his splash page where LarFleeze sees all his victims return? That was just classic.

Good

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dark Wolverine #77

When did Daken become this fascinating? Somehow the stupid, "totally x-treme" version of Wolverine has turned into his own character. He's a manipulative, skeevy, unsettling villain, but heck, that's a lot better than a kid angry at his dad. Since being re-titled to Dark Wolverine, this book has been quite good. Writers Daniel Way with Marjorie Liu have turned Daken on his ear, and instead of being a threat as an ultra-tough brawler, his pheromone-based powers make him much more interesting.

Daken continues using his powers to coax his Avengers allies into self-destructing. With Norman Osborn's plans working against the FF (and theirs against him), Daken just takes advantage of the chaos while ingratiating himself to both groups. Daken works well with all of the Dark Avengers players this issue. He creeps out Venom, he infuriates Ares, and he confuses Bullseye. Fun stuff. Way and Liu use the Fantastic Four well here too, with the Thing and Mr. Fantastic getting the best lines. Though it was nice seeing the Invisible Woman bop Osborn in the face when he leered at her.

Giuseppe Camuncoli's blocky, heroic characters look great in this setting. His art was the reason I gave this relaunch a chance, and I'm glad I did. Overall, this is a surprisingly entertaining book, one I'd recommend grabbing in trade when available.

Good

Gotham City Sirens #3

I hope it isn't a sign of my dislike for the main characters, but this was by far the strongest issue of Sirens so far. In fact, the few scenes where Poison Ivy actually appeared, I found myself as annoyed by her as I always do. I like Catwoman, but Harley and Ivy have always seemed really foolish to me, so this issue focusing on the Riddler was quite fun. I liked the dueling internal monologues from Batman and Riddler as they initially face off too. Riddler deciding to just play along as if he didn't know Dick was Batman was a great piece of characterization, as was Dick's thought that Tim Drake/Robin is a much better detective than he is. The murdering team of villain-wannabes is a fun idea that I'd love to see more of, even if the leader does use one of the names of a hero I created years ago (Conundrum). She was a fun, entitled character that will make a good recurring villain.

Guillem March's art is still titillating and exploitative, but I found myself less bothered since he had to spend most of the issue drawing the guest-stars. He couldn't get by with pinups and cheesecake, and I think the issue looked better because of it. His take on Batman is pretty darn cool.

Good

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Justice Society of America #30

We're only 2 issues in to Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges' run on JSA and we're already getting some of their signature characterization. Already the JSA is organizing itself into logical missions and team splits, much like these two writers established in Shadowpact. This actually works out better here in JSA, since the team is so large that there are natural splits that make a lot of sense. I'm not sure why Hourman ended up on Team Power Girl, since he never seemed like that proactive a hero (or Cyclone for that matter) but I'm ok with the split overall.

I liked that Jay Garrick, Stargirl, and Dr. Fate are enough to turn the tide of villains that seemed so powerful last issue. After setting up Blue Moon, Eclipso, and Dr. Polaris as the heavy hitters of the villains, I was amused to see them escape PG's team. I hope they show up again, they certainly could form the nucleus of a neat little villain crew. I hope Mr. Terrific is ok, he is a neat character and I don't want to see him out of action for too long. I'm liking the two new sidekick characters too; they add some much needed snark to the respectful halls of the JSA. Magog comes off as more of a jerk here than in his own book, but at the same time, it isn't surprising seeing him face off against Wildcat. I'm sure we won't get an actual fight, but I would actually have liked to see it!

Jesus Merino is firing on all cylinders here. He's a solid artist with a nice, classic style, I'm really happy he's getting the chance to headline a big title like JSA.

Good

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Red Circle: The Web #1

This is by far the strongest of the JMS-helmed relaunches of the Red Circle characters. The Web is a hero for hire out to do good and stay in the public eye doing it. He's had his entire life (and fortune) come easily, so after seeing how his brother does so much good for the unfortunate, John Raymond has decided to spend millions of dollars setting himself up as the Web, a hero for the people. In a grand-standing move, The Web has a website where anyone can ask for help, and it certainly seems like the Web enjoys the spotlight in his heroics. He helps starlets and normal people from normal problems, but he also seems to make time for cool stuff like chasing off bullies.

After John's brother gets wrapped up in some trouble the Web can't get him out of, John re-dedicates himself to helping people who are truly unfortunate. It seems John Raymond will still get himself in the spotlight, but he's going to try to maximize the actual good he can accomplish. The Web is a character in the Booster Gold mold, and that's probably why I like him so much and I'm so interested in reading more about him.

Roger Robinson is one of my favorite under-rated artists, and his stuff looks fantastic here. The Web's terrible costume might have looked awful, but it actually looks neat rendered by Robinson. I'd read an ongoing with this creative team in a second.

Good

War of Kings: Ascension #1-4

So this was basically an oddly-titled Darkhawk limited series. As a fan of the early 90s series, I really enjoyed it. Chris Powell and his armored alter-ego got a significant power up from DnA in this, and I'm excited to see where the character goes. I believe Darkhawk is slated to become a supporting character in Nova. That's a great spot for the hero going forward.

The basic plot is that a fraternity of plotters and assassins called the Raptors is returning after centuries of exile to shape and guide the Shi'ar Empire. The first Raptor to return, Talon, seeks out his malfunctioning companion Razor. It seems that Razor's host has taken over the armored body they share. Razor, of course, is Darkhawk. After tricking Chris Powell into letting Razor take over, Powell uses his human-powered anger to retake control of his powered form. The middle chapters deal heavily with the metaphysical, other-dimensional stuff of Powell seizing his identity back. The most interesting parts hit in the closing chapter when Powell has to flee Gladiator and the Starjammers. While Razor was in control, he did a bad thing. He killed Empress Lilandra of the Shi'ar. So there are some powerful people mad at ol' Darkhawk these days. Darkhawk does get to take out the manipulative Talon, but the story ends with Darkhawk kind of on the run, the most wanted man in Marvel space. Powell swears to hunt down the other Raptor gems and destroy them, setting up a pretty strong ongoing story that could send Darkhawk all over the Marvel U. DnA's effort to turn Darkhawk into a lead character worked for me.

Wellinton Alves does a decent job on pencils. The Starjammers have such odd costumes; I'd love to see him draw the more classic takes on the characters. The central Raptor characters all look cool and unique, a difficult feat with such similar armors.

Good

Friday, September 4, 2009

G.I. Joe: Origins #6

I don't think my lack of excitement about this issue stems from the sillly straw-man argument about liberals that Chuck Dixon uses. Dixon has an old friend of Scarlett's show up and espouse the virtues of keeping Middle Eastern folks primitive, and the character talks about how the simpler life is better for them. Scarlett argues that the decision should be their choice. The liberal doofus turns out to be a traitor (he betrays Scarlett to his allies), a hypocrite (those allies are mercs out to destroy a pipeline), and a coward (he again betrays Scarlett when she is able to escape captivity). The guy was just such a lousy character that I thought he weakened the entire story. I enjoyed seeing Scarlett leading around one of the cooler mission teams (Stalker, Recondo, and Leatherneck) and the Joes did get to kick some butt. The timeline seems to have jumped considerably from the first 5 issues though, since the team is well-formed here. This actually could have been a random issue of the Joe ongoing book. I think Hama will be back at some point and I'm looking forward to his return. Dixon is a solid Joe writer, but Hama brings a special something that is hard to match.

Augustin Padilla is a new name to me, but his work is fine. I love how IDW gives these types of artists a shot. They are not spectacular or ground-breaking, but they are solid storytellers who get the job done.

Average

Avengers: The Initiative #27

Christos Gage is fantastic at delving into the obscure history of the Marvel U. This issue focuses on Johnny Guitar, a forgotten villain from Dazzler back in the 80s. Johnny is a very sympathetic character here; it is easy to identify with the guy's reasoning on how he fell down the path of becoming a super criminal. I particularly enjoyed that Johnny and Dr. Sax viewed the Trapster as a top-level criminal. That a low-rent whipping boy like Trapster could have guys looking up to him was great. Johnny's story has the predictable ending, but I loved how he removed his partner from the danger of being on the new Shadow Initiative. The Shadow Initiative is now a neat mix of low powered fodder like Johnny and the Ringer and a few competent but low-powered heroes like Bengal and Bat Boy.

I actually broke down and bought the Tigra cover for this issue. I didn't have any of the 70th Anniversary covers, but I wanted to have at least one. It came down to this or Hank Pym and I decided Tigra looked cooler. Her subplot in this title is going to be a lot of fun, especially since it doesn't seem Gage is going to have her killing anyone. She'll hand out well-justified beat-downs instead.

Rafa Sandoval's art is nice and detailed. He handles the multitude of heroes and villains very nicely. His faces can still be a bit lumpy, but he's getting better each issue.

Good

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Invincible Iron Man #17

I think this book would read better in trade. Matt Fraction is weaving a fascinating tale documenting the fall of Tony Stark, but not a lot happens each issue. In fact, whole issues pass (like this one) with no real conflict. This is more an espionage book than a super-hero comic at this point, so I'm not sure I'm reading it the right way.

I guess Madame Masque defeated Pepper Potts in her Rescue armor last issue, because she turns over the armor to Norman Osborn, who adds it to his Iron Patriot armory. Of course, I suspect that Pepper Potts is actually dressed like Masque, and Masque is unconscious in the Rescue armor. Fraction has Tony right a nice little email filled with typos and mistakes where he expresses his concern for Maria Hill. Tony totally gives up the email code developed earlier in the story arc, and he signs his email with an uncharacteristic "Love, Tony." Stark is almost totally gone, folks. I'm betting we'll get some new armor after this story though, so I'm looking forward to that.

Salvador LaRocca does a great job with the talking heads, but I'd love to see him drawing more action. Even when HAMMER shows up to arrest Black Widow and Mariah Hill, there is very little conflict. There's a nice shot of Bucky Cap watching them get caught, so maybe this is a plan, but there is just about no fighting. Maybe we'll get more when Bucky Cap gets more involved next issue.

Fair